The Floods of 1856, Avignon

Artist: Édouard Baldus (French, born Prussia, 1813–1889)

Date: 1856

Medium: Salted paper print from paper negative

Dimensions: 30.4 x 43.8 cm (11 15/16 x 17 1/4 in. )

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, Robert Hurst, Paul F. Walter and Anonymous Gifts; Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, Rogers Fund and Gift of Mrs. Claire K. Feins, in memory of Daniel M. Feins and Linda S. Silverman, by exchange; and funds from various donors, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.52


In Avignon, Baldus portrayed the disastrous floods of 1856 with uncommon lyricism. Standing on the cathedral terrace, he pivoted his camera to compose a sweeping six-part panorama that encompasses the entire Rhône valley. In this section, one can see the flooded island of Barthelasse, the town of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, and the river, slowly returning to the confines of its banks. Mulberry and willow trees dot the watery landscape, showing the contours of previously dry land, and trees, boats, houses, and hills float on the water's surface, as if in the cushioning embrace of pale heather velvet. There is no hint of the violent torrent.